Literary Movements of Modernism & Imagism

At the turn of the twentieth century, the literary scene in both the United States and Europe began to undergo a significant transformation. The experience of World War I further fueled changes in literary conventions, as writers and critics began to turn away from the traditions created during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and instituted a new narrative structure in both the poetic and prose forms. These changes are most effectively grouped under the banner of the Modernist literary movement, which broadly refers to the major shift in aesthetic and cultural awareness in literature between 1890 and 1939. However, within the parameters of Modernism, other literary movements soon sprang up, upholding the general tenets of the Modernism movement but veering off in more specific directions. Imagism was one such movement, as it attempted to revolt against the conventions of Romanticism by concentrating intently on the images within a poem. This paper will consider both Modernism and Imagism as literary movements, and examine the ways in which each developed during the early twentieth century.

The Modernism movement is often difficult to define because it carries many different meanings. Indeed, some argue that Modernism refers to a specific literary period, while others believe it is a certain literary style or genre. However, it is generally accepted that Modernism connotes a kind of avant-garde writing, one that rebels against traditional literary conventions . In this respect, Modernist writings were highly experimental, as they were a response to the conventions of Victorian and Edwardian literature. Modernist writers rejected standard narrative techniques, and attempted to establish new descriptive and expositional tools. This lead to the development of a “stream of consciousness” style of writing, which depended heavily upon poetic images as a means of communicating aesthetically


revolt against the conventions of Romanticism
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